After all the trouble we’d had with our hotel booking, we were determined to make the best of our stay at Serendipity Beach. I used to work with a hilarious man who, when we had something really terrible/impossible to work on, would describe it as ‘polishing a turd’; and I was genuinely ready to put a shine on the great big log that was our first day at Serendipity Beach. Our (read: my) resolve lasted for one night; a night spent lying awake until 4.30 am listening to horrendous trance music blasting from the beach (over 500 metres away) and then being awoken again at 7 am to a group of Cambodian men playing cards and speaking (read: yelling) to all of their friends on speaker phone right outside our door. There was no way I could do another three nights like that. By the time Campbell got back from his leisurely morning coffee and cigarette, I had worked myself into full-blown Sandilands rage mode – we were leaving this shit hole, we were getting a refund, and heaven help the person who tried to say otherwise. Campbell knew better than to try to placate the beast – I had pretty much turned into that woman from The Exorcist (minus the putrid green vomit).
After hours on the phone to Expedia, we finally had alternate arrangements and we were set to leave Serendipity (minus the five or six pieces of clothing that the hotel had managed to lose while doing our laundry). For us, the only real solution was to throw cash at the problem – we didn’t book the private island, but we did end up back at Otres Beach, somewhere fancier than we’ve been in a long time, and it was the best decision we ever made. We felt like rock stars as we got escorted to our poolside room via golf buggy. We wouldn’t want to unfairly deter anyone from visiting Serendipity Beach – you should definitely visit if sweating, early twenty-somethings, wearing hardly any clothes and groping each other, so high on drugs that they’re chewing their own faces off and dancing to a beat only they can hear, is your kinda thing. If not, I’d probably give it a miss.
Our few days back at Otres Beach were lovely and we wondered why we’d ever left in the first place. As NYE rolled around we didn’t really have any big plans, but figured we’d make our way down to the beach along with everybody else. The vibe was really nice – heaps of Cambodian families had set up camp in the free areas with their tents and BBQs and all of the beach bars were playing great tunes and serving up cocktails. With just the two of us, it was shaping up to be a pretty tame affair but, as we’ve learned, the world sometimes has a way of dishing up the right kind of people at just the right time. We ended up meeting two great girls – one Aussie and one American – and spent an awesome evening with them chatting about our respective travels, watching the fireworks and having an all-round good time.
Michelle (the Australian) was particularly awesome, and I had to laugh as she sat smoking her joint telling us about her study to become a drug and alcohol counsellor. She’d volunteered and travelled extensively through east Africa and had so many amazing tales. We didn’t get to know Julie (the American) quite so much, because she spent a lot of the night running and hiding behind trees and tables to avoid the danger from the home-made Cambodian fireworks. To be fair, the homemade fireworks were an accident waiting to happen, but they were also awesome. They were the equivalent of Roman Candles (the ones you can hold and shoot ten or so blasts into the air), but were made of plastic PVC pipe and homemade bundles of gunpowder. They were totally out of control and would sometimes shoot explosives out of the wrong end, both ends and even sideways. A couple of times they’d go totally rogue and spin off into the crowd, or one of the beach restaurants. Julie did not like them one bit, while Campbell was wondering how to smuggle some home. The thought of him and Trev with a set of them is terrifying!
Sihanoukville also put on a pretty impressive professional fireworks displays at each of its main beaches, and we could see the show from Otres, Serendipity and some bays even further afield. We wandered the length of the beach after the countdown, said goodbye to our new buddies and called it a night.
Our posts on Sihanoukville could leave you with the impression that we really didn’t like it here and, while it’s true that it’s been one of the most trying weeks of our trip, we have also had a really great time in amongst all of that. Above all, the tricky moments certainly haven’t overshadowed how much we have enjoyed Cambodia – there is so much to like here:
- The People: Cambodian people are outrageously friendly, funny, patient and courteous. Given the things they have lived through in recent times, their resilience and spirit is unreal.
- The Food: On the whole, we haven’t found the food here quite as tempting as some of the other countries we’ve visited, but the fresh seafood BBQs on Otres Beach were pretty much the definition of simple things done right. So good!
- The Fashion: I am a strong advocate for comfortable clothing, so I whole-heartedly support the fact that Cambodian women wear what appear to be floral pyjamas as everyday wear (I couldn’t get any decent photos of my own, but this one I found gives you the idea). I’m realistic about the prospect of bringing this trend home – it has taken me eight long years to get my boss to
accepttolerate my love of the humble cardigan, so I can only imagine the response when I arrive back at work in my floral jim jams. I will, of course, accessorise with appropriate corporate footwear and accessories, but I still expect we’ll be having a “conversation”.
- Town and Country: We’ve really loved the mix of big cities, small towns, villages, beachside communities etc that Cambodia has to offer. Every place has felt truly unique and there hasn’t been anywhere on our trip that we could look back on and think ‘we probably could have given that a miss’.
Tomorrow we leave Sihanoukville, and are finishing up our time in Cambodia with quick visits to both Kampot and Kep. We’ve heard great things about both and are expecting good food, a bit of beach time, some scooter action and to go out with a bang.